School failure: some causes and determining factors

Over the past decade, it has been observed a marked increase in the prevalence of dropping out of school of the Spanish population, dropping from 14% in 2011 to 20% in 2015, to the point where this country reaches the highest index compared to other members of the European Union (Eurostat, 2016).

The most frequently detected difficulties relate to alterations in literacy or dyslexia (with an average rate of 10%) or related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (with a proportion ranging from 2 to 5% of students). .

However, there are other issues which, without being as frequent as those indicated, can lead to the existence of a learning disability severe enough to eventually lead to cases of academic failure.

    School failure and its causes

    School failure, understood as the difficulty of assimilating and internalizing academic content established by the education system according to the age and development of the child, can be motivated by multiple causes of different nature. We cannot therefore consider that the responsibility lies exclusively with the pupil, but that both the educational community and the family environment have a very important influence.

    Among the factors that can precipitate school failure with the student, we distinguish:

    • Aspects related to the student’s level of psycho-physical maturation, such as psychomotor or cognitive abilities (attention, memory, perception, etc.).
    • Specific developmental disorders, linked to the existence of significant difficulties in basic skills such as reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia) or mathematical reasoning (dyscalculia).
    • Learning disabilities, referring for example to the presence of more clinical entities such as attention deficit disorder and its different modalities (with the presence of hyperactivity, combined, impulsivity, etc.).
    • Pedagogical problems, due to a difference in adjustment between the educational objectives set for the pupil and their adaptation to them.
    • Strictly psychological disorders, such as the presence of fears, marked fears, phobias, emotional and behavioral inhibition and / or excessive shyness.
    • Other issues related to basic memory, attention, verbal or digital skills that inevitably affect student performance or other issues arising from overload of activities or content to learn.

    On the other hand, as stated above, there are a number of circumstances which they refer to the malfunction, in some cases, of the education system, This considerably worsens the consequences arising from the existence of the factors listed above. Methodological problems, pedagogical attitudes, non-individualized and outdated teaching styles mean that the teacher may not be sufficiently prepared to serve these students with the characteristics indicated, which are in themselves more complex.

    Other factors that increase school failure

    They are presented below three of the problems that usually go unnoticed because they differ from the usual difficulties associated with literacy.

    Like this one, those that are exposed afterwards can be causes of student failure if they go undetected and if they participate correctly.

    Numerical calculation and reasoning problems

    Acalculia is limited to so-called specific learning disabilities and is defined, as proposed by Salomon Eberhard Henschen (who first coined the term in 1919) by a type of calculus damage which may be derived from brain injury or also due to the presence of difficulties during of academic learning.

    According to this author, acalculia does not coexist with symptoms of aphasic or linguistic dysfunction in general. Later, his disciple Berger, distinguished between primary and secondary acalculia. In the first case, reference is made to a specific type of alteration in numeracy that is unrelated to deviations in ability from other basic cognitive processes such as memory or memory. Warning. In contrast, secondary acalculia is broader and more general in nature and is linked to alterations in these basic cognitive processes.

    From initial approaches were born the classifications of Henri Hécaen, Who distinguished between alexic acalculia (understanding mathematical characters) and agraphic (written expression of arithmetic characters), spatial (arrangement and location of numbers, signs and other mathematical elements in space) and arithmetic ( correct application of arithmetic operations).

    Some peculiarities of calculation problems

    McCloskey and Camarazza have been described a differentiation between the nature of the alteration in numerical processing or reasoning (understanding and producing numeric characters) compared to those more relating to the process of calculation (procedures for performing arithmetic operations).

    Regarding the first type of difficulty, it is necessary to distinguish two components, which can lead to two types of alterations: the elements involved in the production of Arabic numerals and those involved in the production of verbal numbers. This last component in turn consists of two procedures: lexical processing (phonological, linked to the verbal sound of numeric characters, and graphological, a set of written signs and symbols) and syntactic (relations between the elements to give an overall meaning of the expression. ).

    With reference to the modifications of the calculation It should be noted that it must have an adequate functioning at the level of the prior digital processing, we already know the ability to understand and correctly produce the digital elements which confirm a given mathematical operation, as well as the relations between the various arithmetic characters and their operation.

    However, having adequate digital processing capacity, it can be difficult either to execute a correct order in the sequence of steps involved in performing this type of procedure, or to memorize the usual arithmetic combinations (such as multiplication tables ).

      Psychopedagogical disorder due to lack of attention

      Psychopedagogical disorder occurs when the student is unable to assume the goals at the psychoeducational level proposed for that particular school year. This fact follows from this an accumulation of inaccessible psycho-pedagogical learning which pile up in subsequent courses if not detected and acted upon when the first confirmatory indicators are observed.

      The most frequently affected subjects are elementary subjects: Language and mathematics. Usually, the origin of this type of complication is:

      • The application of pedagogical methodologies not adapted to the particularities of learning of the pupil, either by excess (under-gifted pupils) or by default (gifted pupils).
      • Parenting styles of education that do not emphasize the relevance of learning acquisition.
      • Differential characteristics of the pupil compared to his classmates (presence of behavioral alteration, low competence in a certain area, etc.)

      This type of disorder differs from ADHD because the latter must meet criteria in the three areas affected: attention, impulsivity and / or hyperactivity.

      Intellectual sweetness

      With regard to the intellectually gifted, several factors must be taken into account in preventing school failure in students with very high intellectual capacities:

      Environmental awareness

      It is very important awareness and assimilation by the educational community that this type of group has special characteristics and therefore special educational needs.

      Changes institutions to create inclusive schools

      Once the previous point has passed, it must be given 1 adaptation of the general education system create educational establishments (schools, institutes, universities, etc.) which allow this type of student to be attended. It is equally important to provide these establishments with the material, economic, personal and professional resources which allow the establishment itself to offer its educational service in an appropriate manner.

      The myth of chronological age

      Another important question is that it must banish the traditionally accepted idea that an academic year must correspond to a given chronological age. It seems more assimilated in the case of “repeaters” students, but not so much in those who must go more “advanced”. As it has been conveyed throughout the agenda, each student has some peculiarities and it must be the education system that adapts to the characteristics of the pupil and not the other way around. Thus, the reflection on the implementation of curricular adaptations for this group must be applied without hesitation and in a generalized manner.

      For that, the objectives to be pursued in these curricular adaptations must aim:

      • To encourage the divergent and creative thinking of the pupils, in order to allow the most complete development possible;
      • Promote scientific reasoning and logical development.
      • Provide free access to more complex educational media, especially in more specialized academic fields such as music, science or art.
      • Encourage and motivate the development of potential through rewards and positive reinforcements such as contests, exhibitions or debates where the gifted student obtains satisfaction from his work and efforts.

      To conclude

      After what has been stated in the text, it seems relevant to consider all the factors that lead to such high dropout rates.

      Far from being exclusively responsible for the presence or absence of a student’s desire to learn, there are many other aspects related to the type of education provided, the pedagogical methodology applied, the habits and values ​​transmitted. by the family. in relation to learning which must also be taken into account to achieve improvement in order to reduce the current percentage of school failure.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Escudero, J. M, González, MT and Martínez, B. (2009). School failure as educational exclusion: understanding, policies and practices. Ibero-American Journal of Education, 50, 41-64.
      • Marchesi, A. (2003). School failure in Spain. Madrid: Fundación Alternativas. Working document 11/2003.

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